Burglars Caught Stealing at the Height of Sandy

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Talk about seizing the moment to carry out a crime during Sandy.

Police say two people thought they could break into an office supply store in Scranton, considering the storm was accidentally tripping burglar alarms all over the place.

Police say those two burglars broke into Staples during the height of the storm Monday night. The alarm company never notified the store, so police say the men spent several hours inside. Then their greed, apparently, got ahead of them and they tried to break into Best Buy. That's where police caught up with them.

The contents of a hefty electronics heist now fill an entire room at Scranton Police Headquarters on South Washington Avenue. Police say nearly all of it was stolen on Monday night in a matter of hours.

A bizarre burglary story on the night of the big storm.

"You have to realize this was at the height of the storm at 4:00 am. So, they've probably responded to numerous false alarms thinking they're going to another false alarm when they encounter these masked individuals," said Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano.

Those masked men admitted that they were taking advantage of the storm. They are Gilbert Ortiz of New York City and Gregory Mitchell of Scranton.

Police say they caught up with Ortiz first at the pair's second stop, Best Buy, after they had taken the electronics from Staples near the Viewmont Mall.

Police say Ortiz and Mitchell first popped open the door at Staples as a test. And when the cops didn't respond, they kept going in and out with merchandise. Police think they spent three or four hours inside.

"They waited to see if there was going to be a police response as soon as their wasn't a police response they knew they had time on their side and they were able to get away with this massive amount of electronic goods," added Chief Graziano.

Police found more than just stolen electronics when they raided the house on North Sumner Avenue in Scranton where Ortiz and Mitchell live together.

They found a pile of car parts and called around to local dealerships.
Employees from Matt Burne Honda in Scranton recognized the wheels.

"We would imagine that they're our tires because rarely do people replace tires with the factory stock tires, these tires are the same size in factory stock and we hade about 30 of them stole in August," said Brian Walsh from Matt Burne Honda.

Ortiz and Mitchell are charged with burglary and criminal conspiracy. Police also charged Mitchell's girlfriend, Stephanie Johnson, with conspiracy.